Member Monday: Shawn S. Kasserman

Founding Partner // Tomasik Kotin Kasserman

Description of your practice:
I am a trial lawyer representing those seriously injured or killed. For me, the responsibility of advocating for victims of negligence is exceeded only by the privilege of helping them through the greatest of life’s challenges.  We founded TKK on these principles and our practice consists of building close personal relationships with our clients and doing everything that can be done to bring them justice.

Why are you a member of the WBAI?
Originally, I was just lucky!  My parents chose a name that is gender neutral. Shortly after I was sworn in as a lawyer, in 1990, I received a letter welcoming me to membership in the WBAI. I called to confess that I didn’t necessarily qualify. I was informed that I did qualify and that Donald O’Connell, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court, was also a member.  I was in!!

I have stayed involved with the WBAI over the years largely because of the values instilled in me by my mom.  She was a feminist before it was cool.  As far back as I can remember, my mom regularly and fondly belted out a “Yea for Women!” chant at the notion of any woman advancing in life.  Admittedly, this was a bit embarrassing as a kid.  As an adult, I could not be more proud of her for unabashedly cheering on her sisters. My involvement over the years with the WBAI has largely been echoing my mom’s chants of “Yea for Women!”

What are the qualities you have seen and admired in a senior female attorney you know? 
Generally, I admire all women lawyers in that I acknowledge and appreciate that they face challenges as lawyers which I do not.  Gender – wage gaps, harassment, stereotypes, and discrimination entangle our profession.  The specific women lawyers I admire are focused on being the best advocates they can be while realizing the strengths their gender adds to their abilities. Women often have better communication skills as well as an awareness of obvious things that somehow never seemed to cross my mind. The fact is that working with women make me a better lawyer.

When I really stop and think about it, the qualities I find admirable in female attorneys are much the same as the ones I admire in male attorneys  They are fearless, outwork their opponents, care deeply for their clients, and strive to give back to society generally. Admittedly, many of the women I admire do all of this as the primary caregiver in heels – neither of which I could likely pull off.

What do you think is the best way to empower women in the law?
I believe that the best way for me to empower women in the law starts with acknowledging my own privilege as a man.  It is real and needs to be eliminated.  I try to provide meaningful guidance to women in our profession.  I preach self-advocacy, encourage them to express themselves, and to find solutions to problems rather than focus on the problem.  I try to connect them with male and female role models so that they can develop meaningful relationships – which I believe has been my greatest blessing.  I encourage women lawyers to go for their dreams.  “If you’re gonna be a bear – be a grizzly” is the mantra I have lived by and try to pass on to younger lawyers.  I want women to start each new day with the determination that while they have barriers, they can and will create a professional life that far exceeds anything I’ve accomplished. “You’ve got this!” is my message to women who seek my input.  

What are you most looking forward to in the following year, personally/professionally?
As I write this, coronavirus dominates our lives.  Courts, offices, heck, sections of the country are closed. Two days ago, I read an article entitled “Living Gratefully in the Time of Coronavirus”.  The article perfectly outlines my hopes and aspirations for this coming year. I hope to look back embracing and accepting the “great fullness of life – the entirety of the experience.”  I hope to look back not merely surviving difficult times, but appreciating their gifts, even when the gifts take time to reveal themselves.

Sum and substance, the article encourages us to respond to the concerns of coronavirus by directing our attention toward the gifts that remain in our lives so as to build greater capacity to face what is challenging. Thus, my goal for 2020 is look back and realize that I have discovered the gift of gratefulness even during these difficult times.

Tell us something interesting about you.
My grandma and granny are better than yours! My parents’ moms were instrumental in my upbringing.  Life wasn’t always perfect in my youth, but I had two of the best mentors in my Granny Kasserman and my Grandma Langille. They taught me everything from seeing the best in everyone to golf etiquette.  I would not want to imagine my life without the beautiful influence of Granny Kasserman and my Grandma Langille.